By Doris Lim
Poor Jerry. <heaving sigh>
Or rather poor Harold Pinter.
I supposed to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2005 sort of put things “right” with Pinter. Not that I know what is right or wrong. Before or after watching “Betrayal”
I watched like a voyager.
Not a as gossiper or rumourmonger. But as a sneaky little voyager.
To put that nicely.
You see, the married Pinter had had an affair with his best friend’s wife Joan Bakewell. The many details of the couple’s seven-year affair is culled and summarised.
An inventory of time; of only afternoons.
Emma complained bitterly of not spending a whole night with Jerry.
Stuck in their “love nest”. The “curtains” right down to tablecloth bought in Venice is flashed on stage.
Much like knickers, I suppose. Or that wayward sock that shows up at the oddest place. Things like these are bound to happen in an affair. However long or drawn out.
Or to put it rather bluntly.
Both Pinter and Bakewell rode out those stolen afternoons well. They most probably wore out various furniture in that small flat. Seven years of languid afternoons trapped in.
For goodness sake!
Then both milked it for literature and fame.
His and her version of whodunit to whom.
LOVER | BEST FRIEND
Razif Hashim as the protagonist Jerry, is a nervous, guilt ridden man. He is consumed with Emma. He has business with her husband Robert. Robert is Jerry’s best friend. Jerry was Robert’s best man.
Through it all, Jerry comes across as endearing.
This is what happens when a playwright writes himself in a role. They can be as charming and as endearing as they want.
Alas he was taken for a fool.
Lying and being lied to are two very separate things.
Steffanie Van Driesen as Emma is a bundle of nervous energy. In her relationship with Jerry, she spirals from careless abandonment to the depth of insecurity. Emma was driven to lie to preserve her relationship with Jerry.
She is jealous of the camaraderie that Jerry has with Robert.
She sees Jerry’s spouse as a potential romantic rival. Emma who had the audacity to demand if Jerry’s wife suspects his affair. If anyone knew.
In the next scene, Emma announces to Jerry that she became pregnant with Robert (her husband).
“When you were away in America, Jerry,” she said flatly.
At its core, this twisted sense of self is an over consuming desire of ownership.
The prized commodity is time spent with Jerry.
Omar Ali as Emma’s cuckold husband wisely allowed the affair to run its course. There were other things at stake more than the few hours of how his wife spent her afternoons. Like all husbands who could not, he would not jeopardize losing his best friend.
Or the mutual beneficial rewards of that business relationship. So he carried on, pensive, resigned to his life. Strained at best. Still bearable.
He looks forward to his squash, books and conversations with Jerry.
Robert is wise. No reaction to the turmoil. I supposed this is the only way to cope with deception.
There are so many pauses written by Pinter in the play. A hundred and forty pauses to be exact.
God bless Joe Hasham OAM for removing these. I would have pleaded for emojis if Joe had kept all the 140 daunting “pauses and silences”.
What do the actors do actually? Count numbers for different type of pauses and silences. Wtf.
In real time clandestine affairs they would be pushier. Demanding. They grab and slam into each other. Biting and clawing. Surely.
No one pauses in real time. Unless of course both are collecting data, marshalling thoughts.
After all, Pinter wrote a play about the affair. Later Bakewell in retaliation wrote her version in “Keeping in Touch”
All nicely formed at high temperature and pressure at deep depths. Like the way natural diamonds are formed, I supposed.
Bakewell’s play Is lighter in texture than Pinter’s but; she deftly told the story from her perspective.
“Keeping in Touch” responds in the way women generally do. They explain their way into and out of the affair.
She deftly recounts the frustrations of a bourgeois marriage. Unfulfilled. What to do? Bored generally. A woman yearning for a man’s touch can be powerful. Compelling even.
The story ends at the beginning. But of course.
None of this would have happened if Jerry did not make a confession of a consuming desire for Emma. Jerry was half drunk.
The confession, bare minutes before Robert totters into the bedroom. Robert sees the two sitting in opposite sides of the room.
Surely Robert was outside the door. Surely he heard, or not.
Life goes on for the next seven years…
Jerry and Robert play squash. Have dinners and drink. Talk shop.
Dr. Judith, Jerry’s wife works shifts in the hospital and has meals with a male colleague.
“One that Judith is not so fond of,” Jerry once told Robert.
Nevertheless, the affair continued, year in year out. Seven springs, seven summers, seven autumns and seven winters. Seven frustrating years.
The last two, were perhaps the most excruciatingly unbearable. Emma confessed to Robert.
Still she carried on with the affair. Robert knows. She knows. Jerry doesn’t know anything.
Which comes back to the story in point? “Betrayal” seemed more like a story of two cuckolded husbands of an adulterous wife.
Moral of the story: Choose wisely. Choose a prolific writer if considering an affair of epic proportions.
Feature Photo: Lu Jia Chen